Ears and Hearing
Ear infections are the most common reason for a visit to the doctor in the United States.
It is mainly a problem for children, but can also affect adults. Symptoms of ear infections may include earache, decreased hearing, draining ears, fever and nighttime awakening.
Most ear infections are treated with antibiotics. If antibiotics aren't effective, or if the fluid in the ears continues for at least three months, your doctor may recommend the insertion of ear tubes to equalize the air pressure behind the eardrum. For children, this is an outpatient procedure performed with general anesthesia. Adults usually have the procedure in the office.
Otitis media is inflammation of the middle ear caused by a middle-ear infection. It can occur in one or both ears and is most common in children.
Otitis media can cause intense earaches and temporary hearing loss, especially in children. Prompt treatment will usually restore hearing to normal. If an ear infection is not treated, it can spread to nearby structures in the head, especially the mastoid. It can also cause permanent damage to hearing.
It is very important to recognize the symptoms (see list below) of otitis media and to get immediate attention from your doctor.
Symptoms of a severe ear infection include:
- Hearing problems
- Dizziness, loss of balance
- Nausea, vomiting
- Ear drainage